Gender Biased Sex Selective Abortions in India
Public Public Analysis
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
The population census of 2011 has given the familiar pattern of declining Child Sex Ratio (Age 0-6 years). From 976 in the census of 1961, it has come down to 914 in census of 2011 (provisional figures). Some of the States like Haryana (830) have reached a dangerous level. What is startling is the rate of decline, which has gathered momentum from the decade of 1970s. Interestingly it coincides with the introduction of Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques like Amniocentesis and Ultra Sonography. Because of the historical bias against the girl, female infanticide, honour killing, dowry deaths etc. have been common in our society. However, the modern, non invasive prenatal diagnostic techniques have enabled early and quick sex determination and sex-biased selective termination of pregnancy.
Though it is very difficult to attribute exact numbers to sex-biased selective abortion, a recent study has estimated that the estimated gap in the girls to boy at the age of 0-6 years due to selective abortion of female fetuses in the last 40 years is between13.3 to 13.7 millions.
The Government has responded to the issues of sex-biased abortions very late. Till 1971, the illegal abortions were dealt with under the provisions of IPC. In the year 1971, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed. Though passed with good intention, it resulted in increase in sex biased abortions. To prevent the misuse of the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques, the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was passed in 1994 which came into force in 1996, which provides for Advisory committees and Appropriate Authorities for enforcing the act at the district level.
Analysis of the policies and its implementation reveal that more efforts are needed both in managing the demand as well as supply of PNDT services. Target community specific awareness generation strategy is needed.The district level apparatus needs to be strengthened and broadened to implement these campaigns.The appropriate authorities, members of the advisory committees themselves need sensitization on the severity of the problem
On the supply side, the solutions are easier. There has been gross under reporting of both the use of ultrasonography, as well as MTPs. The experiments carried out in Kolhapur, Maharashtra of installation of SIOB (Silent Observer) with the ultra sonographs is worth taking note. Online reporting combined with SIOB has minimized the under reporting of the cases and has facilitated quick action on violators. Sensitizing the judiciary on the implementation of PNDT Act has immensely benefited in securing speedy convictions. The AGPs and the Appropriate Authorities need to be trained in instituting and arguing the cases as the cases under PNDT do not go to the police for investigation.
The continuous decline in sex ratio in India and particularly the child sex ratio has started to show its effects on the social setup of our society. As shown below, the pace of decline in the child sex ratio seems to be increasing. With new states like Maharashtra joining the league of declining sex ratio states, the need to take the issue seriously has grown. At the rate of today, we are creating a shortage of more than 11 crore girls assuming 120 crore population.
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